Miley Cyrus Might Be Right! “I Can Hold My Own Hand”

I recently stumbled across a talk where the speaker mentioned the “Effort Driven Reward Cycle,” and that phrase caught my attention, prompting me to take a deep dive into its meaning and significance.

For years, in my studies, writing, and sharing, I’ve emphasized moving past conversations focused solely on the “other” person’s role in a traumatic event. Instead, I focus on my client’s well-being—how the heartbreaking moments have affected them and what they need to heal and grow from their trauma. Personally, post-divorce abuse kept me in a mode of protection and defense, draining too much of my energy.

I’ve extensively written about the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for fight, flight, freeze, and fawn responses, and how to become comfortable with being triggered in various ways—emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. This involves understanding when and how we’re triggered and learning to soothe ourselves, recognizing the crucial biofeedback loop our bodies initiate.

The Effort Driven Reward Cycle involves the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens, hippocampus—all triggered by the ventral tegmental area! Did you know that the area of our brain controlling our hand movements, particularly our thumbs, is larger than the part controlling our other limbs? It’s what one might call “thick”! Using our thumbs requires more energy and attention in our brain.

Engaging in handcrafted activities such as knitting, crocheting, playing an instrument, journaling, or coloring builds new neural connections in the brain. As we consistently engage in these activities, we establish a habit, linking the activity with peaceful pleasure.

Let’s take a moment to thank our hands. There’s an old blessing of the body prayer that I’ve shared repeatedly, and expressing gratitude to your hands and entire body for the creations it supports daily is a good place to start.

Consider cradling your thumbs—a pressure point that stimulates relaxation and possibly triggers the effort-driven reward cycle. Cross your thumb over the palm of your hand and wrap your four fingers around your thumb, creating a thumb hug.

During meditation, try placing your hand on your heart or holding a meditation crystal close to your heart, reconnecting to the hand-heart connection and the effort-driven reward cycle. If you’re open to it, experiment with holding your favorite crystal during meditation and observe its effect on your practice.

Challenge yourself to commit to a week (7 days) of engaging in a handcrafted creation. For instance,  explore a new endeavor like watercolor painting, knitting, or crocheting.  Be mindful of the perfectionist tendencies that may arise when trying something new and notice your feelings.  Does this activity bring you joy? 

Reflect on the mundane activities of daily life, such as laundry and folding clothes. Consider how meditative they can be and find joy in organizing and preparing things for use. Perhaps viewing these tasks as acts of handmade goodness can trigger a dopamine rush, fostering a sense of happiness.

If committing to a new craft isn’t your style, incorporate a moment of reverence for the daily activities that directly involve your hands and thumbs—essentially, all of our daily tasks.

Sometimes, going it alone can be challenging, and you may need someone to hold your hand. I offer unconditional support and guidance to my clients, and I’m here to help you too!

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Thanks for reading this week’s SparkleUp Blog!  Make sure to follow me on instagram and check out my youtube channel filled with supportive content!   If your heart leads you sign up for a coaching session!

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